What would not be considered patient contact?
- The non-medical duties usually assigned to candy-stripers or orderly (e.g. delivering films to radiology)
- Working in the pharmacy
- Doing laboratory research, even on a clinical trial (i.e. no direct patient interaction)
- Administrative work in a doctor's office (e.g. answering phones, typing, filing)
- Shadowing physicians, especially those you are related to (scrubbing in to observe your surgeon father in the OR may yield some terrific stories, but technically speaking, they're not your stories).
Should I try to maximize the number of patient contact experiences?
Diversity is good, but depth is probably better.
As you may guess, long-term commitment is favored. Taking blood pressure at an annual health fair hosted by your pre-med club is fine, but being entrusted to take vital signs at a community clinic is much better.
At Inquarta, we have seen that successful candidates to medical school share certain characteristics in common. They are self-motivated individuals whose focus and passion extend to both their academic and extracurricular pursuits. In looking over these students' records, you would discover a coherent narrative of the way they have pursued certain intellectual interests and concerns in both their academic and extracurricular lives. By simply following the threads of these interests, the admissions officers can see an impressive commitment to a goal. They will be able to tell why the applicant chose one research or community service project over another.
The emotional benefits to seeking out meaningful patient care opportunities as a pre-med can be profound and lasting. Patient contact will also enrich your medical school application in countless ways; not only will it add heft to your AMCAS list of Post-Secondary Experience Descriptions, but the life experience you gain as an ER volunteer or nurse's aide will provide an endless source of anecdotes to enliven your personal statement, secondary essays, and interviews. Naturally, these volunteer experiences also constitute a marvelous opportunity for networking and finding mentor figures who can be prevailed upon to write supplementary letters of recommendations. Lastly, these clinical "apprenticeships" can put you into an environment where you are interacting with people of different ages, and cultural and class backgrounds. "The right patient contact experiences will challenge you to develop problem-solving and interpersonal skills that you otherwise wouldn't have the chance to do," says Don Osborne, the president of Inquarta. "If you choose your patient contact experience well, you will emerge more mature, confident and informed -and that's what medical schools love to see."